What are the best foods for weight loss?
If you’re looking to eat healthier and lose weight this New Year, you might be wondering what types of foods are the best for weight loss. And if you’ve already clicked on the top few Google search results, you’re probably expecting another top 10 foods list.
But the truth is, no single food has magical weight loss powers. And there are no individual miracle foods that will, in isolation, save your health. Losing weight – and keeping it off – is about your overall diet.
So what’s the answer? Instead of just giving you another ‘top 10 foods for weight loss’ list, we’ll share the types of foods that will help you on a healthy and sustainable weight loss journey.
What are the best foods for weight loss?
1. Whole foods
Sure, cutting calories will cause short-term weight loss. But if you want long-term weight loss, plenty of energy and a healthy body, eating a diet based mostly on whole foods is the only answer.
Whole foods keep your gut and hormones healthy, which are key for weight regulation. They also digest slowly and keep you fuller for longer, so that you naturally consume the appropriate number of calories without having to track.
Want some proof? A recent study compared the effects of an ‘ultra-processed’ diet versus an ‘unprocessed’ (that’s whole foods) on healthy adults. During the unprocessed diet phase, appetite-stimulating hormones decreased, while appetite-suppressing hormones increased.
In short, they felt way less hungry – and naturally ate around 500 fewer calories per day!
Whole foods are foods that you can look at and recognise as something that exists in nature. Here are some examples to get you started:
- Fruits & vegetables
- Unprocessed meat & fish
- Nuts & seeds
- Legumes & beans
- Full-fat dairy
2. High protein foods
You’ve probably heard it before, and you’re about to hear it again – getting enough protein is essential for any weight loss journey. This is because:
- Protein reduces the levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin.
- Protein increases the levels of appetite-suppressing hormones GLP-1, peptide YY and cholecystokinin.
- Protein has a high thermic effect (TEF), which means you’ll naturally burn more calories whilst digesting your meals.
- Protein is the most satiating macronutrient, which means you’ll feel fuller for longer and naturally eat fewer calories.
On top of this, eating plenty of protein will help you to hold onto lean muscle mass whilst you’re losing weight. This is beneficial in the long term, as people with more muscle mass often have faster metabolisms (they burn more calories).
Try to include at least 1 or 2 servings of high-protein foods with every meal:
3. Fibre-packed foods
When it comes to weight loss, fibre is your best friend.
Both soluble and insoluble fibre swell in your stomach, which tells your brain that you’ve had something substantial to eat. This keeps you fuller, for longer, helping you to naturally regulate your calorie intake.
In fact, a 2018 study in the Journal of Nutrition found that increased fibre intake is associated with weight loss – and that’s regardless of other dietary factors!
Fibre also feeds your good gut bacteria, which is crucial for weight regulation. So much so, that numerous studies show that low gut bacteria diversity (when there are fewer types of bacteria in the gut) is closely linked with weight gain and obesity.
Most people in the UK aren’t eating enough fibre. If you can, try to fill up half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as:
- Butternut squash
- Green beans
4. Foods rich in healthy fats
People are often afraid of eating fat during a weight loss journey. But, the truth is, the myth that fat will ‘make you fat’ is exactly that – a myth.
In reality, fats are essential for good health and crucial for healthy weight loss. For one, fats are last to leave the digestive tract, which makes you feel fuller for longer.
And secondly, just like protein, fat has a positive effect on your hunger hormones. Eating fat activates leptin, a hormone that sends a signal to the brain to say that you’ve had enough to eat.
So don’t be afraid of fat. While it should be eaten in smaller portions than protein and fibre (it’s very energy-dense), eating a small serving of it with every meal will help to curb your appetite and aid weight loss:
- Oily fish like salmon, sardines & mackerel
- Nuts & seeds
- Nut butter
- Olive oil
Find out more about essential fats in our omega 3 guide.
If you're looking for an easy breakfast or lunch that's rich in protein, fibre & healthy fats for weight loss, you’ll love Purition.
Purition is a whole food blend of seeds, nuts and premium quality protein that you can make into a shake, yoghurt bowl or instant porridge in seconds.
Our whole food ingredients are broken down more slowly than processed and refined foods, keeping you fuller for longer. So long, in fact, that you’re unlikely to want to snack between meals!
What are the worst foods for weight loss?
1. Ultra-processed foods
It’s no surprise that the rise in obesity levels coincides with the increased consumption of ultra-processed foods like:
- Ready meals
- Breakfast cereals
- Instant soups & noodles
- Fast food
These sorts of foods contain heaps of added salt and sugar, but minimal protein, fibre, vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that you need to stay full and satiated.
As well as being totally nutritionless, ultra-processed foods negatively impact your hunger-regulating hormones and gut bacteria, which makes it harder to maintain a healthy weight long-term.
Of course, it’s unrealistic to never eat ultra-processed food again. But, by basing the majority of your diet on minimally processed whole foods, you can enjoy the occasional pizza or packet of crisps without guilt. Weight loss is more about consistency than perfection!
2. Refined carbohydrates
Refined carbs might hit that sweet spot, but overdoing them can also lead to hunger pangs, cravings and stubborn weight gain. These are foods like:
- White bread
- White pasta
Why? Because they digest quickly and cause your blood sugar to spike. Initially, this feels good. But the pancreas quickly gets to work producing insulin in a bid to remove all the sugar from your blood.
This leads to a blood sugar crash, which can leave you feeling tired and craving more sugary and carb-heavy foods to pick your energy back up, making it harder to avoid overeating.
So if you’re working towards a weight loss goal, it’s best to keep these sorts of foods to a minimum. Instead, try to include a bigger serving of protein and more non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, courgette, mushrooms and kale.
Find out more in our guide to why you're not losing weight.
The best foods for weight loss? Always whole foods
Ultimately, the best food to eat for weight loss is always real, whole foods.
Whole foods work in synergy with your hunger/satiety hormones, gut microbiome and other systems that help you to regulate your body weight, naturally.
And as they're naturally rich in protein, fibre and healthy fat, they keep you fuller, longer, making it so much easier to maintain a healthy weight long-term.
And if you're looking for more weight loss advice, check out our nutritionist's guide to weight loss.
Why aren't I losing weight?
A nutritionist's top 10 weight loss tips
Breakfast ideas for weight loss
How to increase your protein intake
What you should do next...
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